Todd v. Panjaitan – International Human Rights and Solidarity – CCR Docket Spring 1994

The mother of a murdered young man sued the Indonesian military commander responsible for a widely-publicized massacre in East Timor. The former Portuguese colony illegally annexed by Indonesia,

CCR filed a wrongful death suit in September 1992 in Massachusetts feder­al court on behalf of Helen Todd, whose 20-year old son, Kamal Bamadhaj, a citi­zen of New Zealand, was killed while observing the funeral procession of a young East Timorese man killed earlier by the  Indonesian military. Bamadhaj, a student at an Australian university was travelling throughout the area on his way home lo Malaysia.

The procession was attacked as it reached the cemetery by hundreds of uniformed soldiers carrying M -16 automatic rifles. The soldiers shot into a densely packed unarmed crowd for more than five minutes; as victims fell to the ground, soldiers continued firing at those still standing. Between 146 and 200 peo­ple were killed. Allan Nairn and Amy Goodman, U.S. journalists, were beaten by soldiers and barely escaped with their lives.

Sintong Panjaitan, the Indonesian commander of the region which includes East Timor, was transferred from his position after the massacre and moved to Massachusetts; he fled back to Indonesia after the lawsuit was filed.

CCR’s suit relies on the Torture Victim Protection Act, which was passed in 1992, as well as the Filartiga principle, and demands damages of at least $25 million. Panjaitan failed to respond to the lawsuit, and a notice of default was entered in February 1993. Following the same procedure as in the case against Hector Gramajo, docu­ments in support of plaintiff’s claim for money damages was filed in January 1993.

Beth Stephens, Michael Ratner, Jose Luis Morin, Jennifer M. Green with Harvey Kaplan, Maureen O’Sullivan and Jeremiah Friedman